Disney lays off 250 employees to hire Indian H1-B workers: report

Entertainment giant The Walt Disney Co is reported to have laid off about 250 employees, replacing them with Indian H1-B visa holders, amidst an ongoing debate in the United States over immigrants taking away jobs from locals.

This adds a new twist to outsourcing companies tapping temporary visas to bring immigrants into technology jobs in the country.

The layoffs confirm allegations that the Obama government's immigration reform only helps immigrant worker at the American worker's cost.

Disney is reported to have informed the 250 employees in October last year, that they would be laid off and many of their jobs transferred to immigrants on H1-B visas brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India.

Not just that, the Disney employees will have to train their replacements, and help the immigrants learn to do their jobs.

The H1-B visa programme has been criticised as being specifically implemented to help companies bring in cheaper immigrant labour to replace costlier American workers.

"I just couldn't believe they could fly people in to sit at our desks and take over our jobs exactly," a New York Times report quoted a former Disney worker as saying.

"It was so humiliating to train somebody else to take over your job. I still can't grasp it," said the employee.

The layoffs, according to Disney officials, are part of a reorganisation, and that the company will be opening more positions than it eliminated.

"But the layoffs at Disney and at other companies... Are raising new questions about how businesses and outsourcing companies are using the temporary visas, known as H-1B, to place immigrants in technology jobs in the US," it said.

"The programme has created a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans," said Ronil Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University who studies visa programmes and has testified before Congress about H-1B visas.

Hira is reported to have told the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in March that, since H-1B immigrants work for less than American tech workers, and because of weaknesses in wage regulations, the companies save as much as 25 per cent to 49 per cent by hiring immigrants.

These immigrants are brought in under the pretext of hiring specially skilled professionals, initially in small numbers, while most top recipients of the visas have been outsourcing or consulting firms based in India, or their American subsidiaries, that import workers for large contracts to take over entire in-house technology units to cut costs, it was pointed out.

"But Disney directly employs fewer than 10 H-1B workers, executives said, and has not been prominent in visa lobbying," the report quoted officials of the organisation as saying.